God is changing Peter’s heart as he prepares him for ministry to the Gentiles. This involves overcoming a lifetime of teaching that the Gentiles were excluded from God’s plans.
There is no salvation apart from Jesus. God in his good purposes chose Cornelius and Peter to be a key part of the plan, formed before the beginning of time, to bring the Gentiles into the family of God.
This is a pivotal chapter, concerned with the grafting of the Gentiles into the Christian church. Peter was to be used sovereignly by God for this specific mission. This was a process spanning many years. God works according to his own timing and plan. We can trust his methods and timeline. His word will come to pass; no person can prevent this.
Cornelius was a ‘model’ religious person. But he did not know Jesus as his Saviour. Here we are God plants the seeds of change and salvation in Cornelius. Religion could not save him. Only Jesus could – and in this story, we see that Peter was to be the one who would introduce Cornelius to Jesus.
Meanwhile God was working in Peter to transform his preconceptions about what was clean and unclean. Just as God declared all food clean, he was now declaring that cleanliness was to be no barrier for the Gentiles: the Gospel was for everyone, not just for the Jews.
Aeneas had been paralysed for 8 years, completely dependent on others for all his needs. Tabitha had been devoted to the works of the gospel and yet suddenly died. Both experienced suffering, a fundamental aspect of living in this fallen world – suffering that can remain this case, even though we lean into God. We should not interpret suffering as God’s disfavour.
Peter travels through their towns, bringing healing – resurrection, emulating the ministry of Christ. And this profound witness, showing God’s care, results in many putting their faith in Jesus. This gift of healing turns our attention, in the suffering, to the One who can bring relief from the suffering or comfort in the suffering.